Although sewing can be tedious and tiring, it is often considered a good pastime for married ladies. The Color Purple’s women managed to make this tedious activity a profitable one. Celie uses sewing to build relationships with other women and eventually to be financially independent without the support of her husband. The color purple’s prominent depiction of sewing is meant to signify the way the women came together as a group and gained independence, despite being dominated by their men.
Celie and Sofia had a great first interaction when they made a quilt. Celie had previously said to Harpo that Sofia should win because Celie was jealous Sofia’s strength. Sofia approaches Celie to explain her actions. She suggests they “make quilts from… messedup curtain” to make a fresh start. Celie is impressed to see Sofia and Celie putting together a quilt. Shug then joins in and suggests that they “make quilt pieces out of… messed-up curtains” as a way to start with a clean slate. Celie experiences a sense of empowerment as she works on the quilt. Shug suggests Celie purchase a pair of pants for plowing the fields. Celie and Shug begin to sew daily, while Nettie reads their letters. Celie sews something Mr. ___ wouldn’t approve of. This is a catalyst that accelerates Celie’s journey to independence. Celie begins questioning God. Shug asks Celie if she is going back to Tennessee. Celie, Shug and their shared secrets have made them very close.
Celie is unable to stop making pants ever since she left Tennessee with Shug. Newspaper patterns, cloth and other materials are everywhere on the table and in the room (212). Celie’s obsession with sewing is symbolic of her inability to stop seeking out new ways and becoming more self-sufficient. Celie’s pants show how Celie is inspired by other women to seek happiness. Celie began sewing pants for Shug, and Squeak when she was just 14. As Mr.___ points out, “everybody just about wore pants [she] made” which symbolises the sisterhood Celie established with all the women in her family (254). When a woman is financially independent, it is the most obvious sign that she doesn’t need a man in their lives. Celie, a talented seamstress, is able achieve economic independence. Celie started her business when she bought her first house. Celie has created her own life, completely free from the interference of men.
Sewing was an ability that wives valued historically. For husbands who have guests, wives could sew their clothes. Many women don’t like sewing but they did it because it was part of being an excellent housewife. Celie made this a feminine responsibility that she could not only fulfill her husband’s needs but also make herself happy. Celie’s sewing helped her to form a friendship with many women and to find a way to be independent and free from her past.